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Field Support Company Maintenance Operations During Deployment

The 107th Engineer Battalion, Michigan Army National Guard, is structured with a field support company to provide maintenance support during a deployment. The field support company supports the battalion and any external units assigned for support of all classes of supply and field maintenance and is augmented by a supply support activity. The field support company was established in the Reserve components table of organization and equipment (TOE) to enable a battalion to run an autonomous operation with external support required only for sustainment and supply support activity missions. The implementation of the field support company is a step toward full transformation to two-level maintenance (TLM). Although the field support company currently resides only in the Army National Guard and Army Reserve force packages, it is the epitome of the TLM philosophy. The unit is structured and staffed to incorporate the old direct support (DS)-level tasks easily.

The field support company within an engineer battalion is structured differently than in other commands. Line units have small maintenance sections that include a staff sergeant motor sergeant. Their capabilities are restricted since they perform most of the “old” organizational tasks, leaving the “full field” tasks to the field support company. Although very clear lines of responsibility are defined in a theater of operations, home-station tasks have to be adjusted because of geography and command alignments.

Field Support Company Tasks in Theater

The maintenance control (MC) section operates as a liaison between the field support company and all external and internal supported units. All equipment repairs or services by the company are routed through this section, where job orders are prepared. All processes of the field support company operation are defined by the MC section and the battalion maintenance officer (BMO). The MC section operates like an MC office in a support maintenance company. The BMO maintains a record of man-hours, parts installed, quality control, and completed tasks. The MC section also works with the BMO to coordinate contractor support.

The field support company completes all maintenance services for the battalion. It can replace transmissions and engines on various heavy expanded mobility tactical trucks (HEMTTs); engines, transmissions, and transfer cases on high-mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicles; clutches and flywheels on small-equipment excavators; HEMTT retrieval and outrigger cylinders; and cylinder heads on 6.5-liter engines.

The company also repairs single channel ground and airborne radio systems; this radio repair support has been extended to all units in the brigade. Other capabilities include small arms repair and air-conditioner repair.

The engineer battalion is authorized unit armorers only within the field support company. Small arms repair also includes performing services. This small arms repair support is extended to all units in the brigade and any external units assigned.

The inspectors determine the condition code of equipment. This includes determining estimated cost of damage, applying maintenance expenditure limits, and identifying equipment candidates for the theater-provided equipment refurbishment program. They also provide quality assurance for small arms repairs to ensure that all parts ordered and installed are audited and recorded.

The field support company’s distribution platoon can support all classes of supply. It currently manages class III (petroleum, oils, and lubricants) and the hazardous materials program. The platoon also distributes water to the pad living and maintenance areas and performs missions relocating supplies and equipment outside of the wire.

Route Clearance Equipment Maintenance

In addition to performing field maintenance on the wheeled vehicle fleet, the field support company also supports a route clearance mission. The line units perform the primary route clearance maintenance mission, augmented with field support company personnel. The recovery section of the field support company is directly involved in hotwash operations—the process of conducting a technical inspection of every vehicle returning from a mission—when each patrol returns. When faults are noted at the hotwash, the equipment is sent to the route clearance equipment maintenance section for repair. When arriving patrols overload the route clearance equipment maintenance section, the field support company provides additional personnel to help keep the fleet rolling. These missions are performed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Many modifications to route clearance equipment require cutting and welding. The field support company is authorized three welders, but it usually has limited manpower when supporting the route clearance equipment mission.

When the 107th Engineer Battalion deployed to Iraq, the route clearance maintenance mission was new to the field support company. The mobilization station had no tasks in place that gave the field support company any missions preparing it for deployment. The only supporting tasks identified by the Army Training and Evaluation Program were recovery operations. Selected Soldiers went to Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, for a 40-hour training block on recovery operations before mobilization.

Contracted maintenance for the route clearance equipment worked well in the beginning but slowly deteriorated, making it necessary for the field support company to perform more of it. The unit initially struggled with the mission but improved as it gained experience. As the unit became more self-reliant, it took on additional route clearance equipment maintenance tasks. The mission capable rate, which started around 80 percent, climbed and leveled off in the mid 90s.

The publishing of route clearance equipment training manuals (TMs) in the fall of 2007 helped greatly. Most part numbers did not correspond to those listed in the civilian manuals that had been available previously. Parts supply from the contractor was adequate but expensive. The BMO established service sheets and initiated a service schedule for route clearance equipment, so the company now can order most service parts through the supply support activity. The field support company expects to complete all equipment services before it redeploys.

The field support company could become a self-supporting, autonomous operation except for one drawback: the availability of specific diagnostic equipment. I recommend that small arms positions and equipment be added to the field support company TOE to enhance its mission. A further review of the TOE structure to fully support the TLM transitions also is needed.

I highly recommend that the route clearance equipment maintenance mission be given to the ordnance Soldier, where it belongs. Route clearance equipment maintenance also should be integrated into the Army Training and Evaluation Program for premobilization training, integrating and using the civilian contractor for initial maintenance training. This would establish the necessary skill set needed to perform this mission easily.
Chief Warrant Officer (W–5) Joseph W. Floriano, MIARNG, is the ordnance actions policy officer for the State of Michigan. He was deployed to Iraq as the battalion maintenance officer for the 107th Engineer Battalion, Michigan Army National Guard, when he wrote this article.